Generational divides are nothing new. Very few of us over a certain age haven’t shaken our heads and wondered, “what is going on with the younger generation?”. And conversely, there are very few young adults who haven’t told their parents or grandparents that “you just don’t understand us.”. And it has gotten even worse as our culture has become increasingly youth-obsessed and afraid of aging. It’s almost as if younger people think that age is a disease you can catch. So, what can be done to bridge the generational divides, and how can different age groups embrace their differences and actually learn from each other? Fortunately, there are organizations dedicated to changing this dynamic and bringing seniors and younger people together. FirstLantic highlights two non-profits that are determined to make an impact.
Loveofgray.org is committed to a society where seniors are highly-valued, and age is not a separator. Their mission is to ignite a movement of Millennials to celebrate seniors by engaging with them in new and meaningful ways. Love of Gray was founded by Shelly Abich, who had a strong bond with her grandparents, especially her grandfather. In fact, his image is reflected in the Love of Gray logo. Through his encouragement, Shelly earned a master’s degree in Gerontology. The same year she graduated, her grandfather passed away at 96. She knew she wanted to find a way to honor her grandfather and care for the aging segment of the population that she felt society was overlooking. One thing in particular that concerned Shelly was that some Millennials, most of whom are committed to social justice, were seemingly okay with ageism. She realized there was a disconnect and saw a way to put the passion of this generation to work in helping seniors. Eventually, she started her non-profit, Love of Gray, to bridge the divide. She came up with the idea of bringing together what she calls Gero Influencers, founders of projects, businesses, and non-profits focused on helping older people while also using social media to influence how younger generations view and treat seniors.
GlamourGals.org connects teen volunteers with elderly residents in assisted living facilities within their communities. Seniors gain companionship and a renewed sense of community, while teens gain essential skills, including empathy, compassion, and leadership. Organized into chapters within high schools and colleges, each chapter is connected with a local senior facility. Volunteers provide companionship, conversation, and beauty makeovers for isolated seniors. Rachel Doyle founded the GlamourGals Foundation when she was a junior in high school in honor of her grandmother, who had recently passed away. Rachel saw an opportunity to address the isolation that many seniors feel. For many that are in residential care facilities, it is estimated that 60% of them never receive visitors. She used her compassion to create a unique program that fosters intergenerational connections while developing empathetic leadership skills in teens. As CEO, Rachel has grown GlamourGals to serve thousands of teens and seniors each year. Over the next year, GlamourGals plans to dramatically expand its intergenerational reach by doubling the number of chapters.
So, while generational divides will never go away completely, there are many ways that each of us can make our overtures toward minimizing them. Whether volunteering, donating, or simply speaking more often with members of our own family of a different generation, we can decrease the gap. Maybe we can even acknowledge that, surprisingly, we are all more alike than different.
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